Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard On You? by George Clinton with Ben Greenman:
New Jersey in the fifties was a breeding ground for the next generation of American music—or, more specifically, African-American music, though it wasn’t called that then. In East Orange, my mother lived right next door to Reverend Mancel Warwick’s grocery store. He had been a Pullman porter and then a cook, and he had ended up as a promoter for gospel records. He was also Dionne Warwick’s father. When we went to visit my mother, the Warwick kids were always out playing in the neighborhood, and I got to know them all: not just Dionne, but Cissy, Dee Dee, the whole family. I used to steal candy out of the reverend’s store, and my friends and I played at the ballpark up the street, right there in East Orange. I wasn’t any good at baseball. I couldn’t even be on my own team. They called me Porky and Feet—I had huge feet, adult-size by the time I was twelve years old.
There was another branch of my family over in Passaic: my aunt and my cousin Ruth, who took me to the apartments in town where the Shirelles were working on “Mama Said.” I was swept up right then and there. Ruth also took me to the Apollo, where I saw the Drifters, the Chantels, and dozens of other groups. I listened to them obsessively and loved them unconditionally. I loved the Flamingos, who had a huge hit with “I Only Have Eyes for You.” I loved the Spaniels and especially their lead singer, Pookie Hudson, who became the model for almost every young singer within earshot. I loved the Bobbettes, who were from Spanish Harlem and had a hit with “Mr. Lee” in 1957, and the Blue Belles, who were from the Trenton-Philadelphia area and featured a girl named Patsy Holt. They had a hit with “Over the Rainbow,” and she had a real powerful voice even then. Cindy Birdsong, who would later replace Florence Ballard in the Supremes, was also in that group. Years later, when Patsy was renamed Patti LaBelle and I was a hairdresser, I would end up doing her hair.